Getting your horse ready for competition

With the competition season fast approaching many of you will be spending more time in the saddle getting your horse fit for the competition season ahead. With an increase in workload many of you will also be thinking about a change to your horse’s feeding regime, but what changes do you need to make?

Forage is the foundation of any feed ration

Even for horses in hard work fibre should be provided at a minimum of 1.5% of the horse’s bodyweight in order to maintain digestive health. For a 500kg horse this would be equivalent to 7.5kg per day.

As forage forms such a large part of the horse’s ration it make sense to use the best quality forage available. If a good clean forage source is difficult to find Dengie Hi-Fi Senior may be a suitable alternative. Not just for veterans, Hi-Fi Senior combines high temperature dried grasses and alfalfa with a light molasses coating. As Hi-Fi Senior is high temperature dried it provides a consistently clean and nutritious forage source from bale to bale.

What about bucket feed?

An increase in workload does not always mean a change in feed, but if your training is going up a gear this spring ask yourself the following questions about your horse’s existing ration: –

  • Is it maintaining your horse at an ideal bodyweight?
  • Are you happy with your horse’s temperament?
  • Has your horse got enough ‘energy’ for the work that he is doing?
  • Is your horse’s diet balanced?
  • Is your horse looking good i.e. coat and hoof condition?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then it suggests that the existing ration is suiting your horse. If the answer is no to any of these questions then it is definitely time to re-evaluate your horse’s diet. Contact the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 for some friendly feeding advice or fill out our feed advice form for a personalised diet plan for your horse.

Do I need to add a Competition mix/cube to my ration?

An increase in workload does not automatically mean that you need to use traditional mixes and cubes to meet your horse’s energy requirements, especially if they are good doers or those that become excitable very easily.

All of Dengie’s fibre based feeds include alfalfa, which is a source of digestible fibre for ‘slow-release’ energy that naturally has an energy or ‘calorie’ level comparable to a cool mix or cube. Dengie’s Alfa-A range of fibre based feeds are based on pure alfalfa with different coatings for different situations and are suitable for horses and ponies in work, or those in lower levels of work that struggle to maintain weight.

Alfa-A Oil is Dengie’s highest calorie fibre feed and at 12.5MJ/Kg Alfa-A Oil provides a similar energy level to a competition mix/cube, but without the starch. Alfa-A Oil is based on pure alfalfa with a rape seed oil coating. Providing entirely ‘slow-release’ sources of energy Alfa-A Oil is ideal for horses and ponies in hard work helping to promote stamina, or for those in lower levels of work for condition without the fizz.

Combining alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet with a 2 hour cold soak or 15 minute hot soak time, Dengie Alfa-Beet can be fed alongside any of the Dengie fibre feeds to provide an additional source of highly digestible fibre. As Alfa-Beet is fed soaked it literally carries water into the digestive tract where it releases it readily to aid hydration.

What about horse feed supplements?

It’s not just the horse’s energy requirements that change with increased workload. Feeds formulated for horses in harder work often have higher levels of vitamins and minerals some of which are powerful antioxidants. These are especially important to counteract some of the deleterious effects of exercise.

When feeding a fibre only ration or significantly less than recommended of a feed with added vitamins and minerals ideally the ration should be topped up with a source of vitamins and minerals such as Dengie Performance+ Balancer or Performance Vits & Mins which are both formulated with performance in mind.

Performance+ Balancer is our higher specification balancer designed for the performance horse. Based on alfalfa and linseed the balancer supplies good quality nutrients to help with coat shine and condition. We also include a full range of B vitamins, which are important for efficient energy metabolism and chelated minerals for improved absorption. The Performance+ Balancer is molasses free making it ideal for horses and ponies who require a low sugar diet. As well as providing a broad-spectrum of vitamins and minerals Performance+ Balancer also contains glucosamine for joint support and prebiotics for digestive support.

Performance Vits & Mins is a high specification broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement that contains generous levels of antioxidants for horses in medium to hard work and provides a more economical alternative to feed balancers whilst still providing appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals.

Case Study

Hannah Esberger is an international 2* dressage rider and trainer. She has won many of the top national dressage titles and has high hopes for her top horse, Leonidas III, who is currently competing at PSG.

Hannah feeds alfalfa to her competition horses and youngsters. “Dressage requires a careful combination of energy and concentration,” she says. “Cereals have a tendency to hot up some of my horses, so I like to feed alfalfa, as it keeps them calm.

“My top horse, Leonidas III, is currently on a diet of Hi-Fi Senior and Performance+ Balancer, with Alfa-Beet fed alongside ad-lib forage. His training regime is intense. This high-fibre diet provides the right level of slow-release energy and is a more natural way to feed, helping to keep his gut healthy.”